American Oceans


The short bill spearfish, known by its scientific name Tetrapturus angustirostris, is a species of marlin. The species, which is also called the short-nosed spearfish, is mainly a Pacific fish characterized by its short bill and impressive colors.

spearfish tetrapturus angustirostris with short bill

Though the fish is custom to tropical areas, some species can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. The migratory species move often and stay close to the surface. It’s also known by a few other names, including Japanese spearfish and slender spearfish.

Characteristics & Appearance

The short bill spearfish, which are called Hebi in Hawaii, are marked by very specific physical characteristics.

Weight & Length

Spearfish, when left to live in the wild, can grow to be quite large. Most spearfish will weigh between 20 and 40 pounds by the time they reach adulthood.

large length spearfish caught in the ocean

The average spearfish won’t grow any longer than 75 inches, or around 6 feet. However, record fish have reached up to 91 inches and can weigh as much as 115 pounds.

Physical Characteristics & Color

You can easily recognize a spearfish by its slender, long, dark-blue body. The spearfish is very narrow and long in shape, sporting a high dorsal fin that measures greater than the height of its body.

spearfish with high dorsal fin characteristics

It also boasts a set of caudal, pectoral, and anal fins. Perhaps the most notable feature of this fish species is its bill.

Unlike long billfish, the spearfish has a bill that is barely longer than its slightly smaller lower jaw. As far as billfish go, this is pretty short.

Spearfish are dark blue across the top of their bodies, including the long dorsal fin that runs almost head to tail.

Its lower half is a silver-white color that easily catches the sun, but the dark blue top half can make it difficult to spot this fish in the water – even when it’s at the surface.

Lifespan & Reproduction

Though not much is known about the spearfish’s lifespan, there is some common information about its reproduction habits and life cycles.

Spearfish reach maturity around the age of two. However, due to their position in commercial and hobbyist fishing, most do not live past the age of three.

Experts estimate that the older spearfish can live up to just five years of age. At sexual maturity, spearfish can begin to reproduce.

This species reproduces by spawning, which means they release eggs. Most experts agree that their reproduction cycles likely happen during the winter.

Spearfish release their eggs into warm, offshore currents when the surface temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). 


Spearfish enjoy warmer, more tropical areas and can most often be found in the Pacific or Indian oceans. However, since they are a migratory species, it’s not uncommon to also see them in the Atlantic Ocean – though, not as often.

In most cases, you’ll see spearfish near the surface of warm waters, enjoying temperatures between 68 and 78 degrees. This temperature is where they are most comfortable.

Where Do Spearfish Live?

As we already mentioned, the spearfish lives in warm, tropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans, but one of the most common places to find this fish species is in Hawaii.

Hawaiians have a unique name for the fish: Hebi. Spearfish, or Hebi, live daily life in open waters close to the surface.

Their dark blue dorsal fin acts as effective camouflage for them, blending them into the blue waters. In some instances, you can find spearfish near reefs, shipwrecks, and coastal or merging waters.

However, you’re most likely to spot them enjoying the warm sun on the surface of an open ocean area.

Food & Diet

The spearfish is not at the top of the fishing list for most anglers, but they are fished. Fishing certainly lowers their place on the food chain.

But the spearfish is considered the catch of the day in Hawaii. In the ocean, a spearfish takes its place at the surface of the water and enjoys its meals there as well as its everyday life. While the fish can grow very long and heavy, it’s not a particularly aggressive predator.

What Do Spearfish Eat?

Spearfish won’t dive deep for their dinner. They stay at the surface, which is where you can usually find them, and search for their meals there.

Spearfish mainly eat any other kind of fish that’s smaller than them. Their meals may range from small to medium-sized fish such as flying fish, needlefish, and pilot fish.

Spearfish will also go after the occasional squid, so long as it’s smaller than they are. Larger spearfish may also feed on dolphins, but they’re more likely to stick to smaller fish.

Threats & Predators

Every species, from humans to sea snails, is threatened by outside sources, including other animals and the environment around them. Below are some potential threats that spearfish may face regularly.

Human Threats

Although spearfish are not hunted by many of your average anglers, they are a popular fish to go after in the state of Hawaii and the Pacific region.

Hawaiian anglers typically use longline boats and line-catch these fish, though they also use lures and baits.

In Hawaii, spearfish are so prized that they can easily be considered the catch of the day – especially if they’re 40 pounds or more. For this reason, humans can be a threat to the species.

Climate Change & Global Warming

Climate change and global warming can have significant impacts on our world’s oceans. Any negative impact on the ocean can harm its inhabitants.

Specifically, climate change has caused ocean temperatures to rise. Spearfish thrive in warmer waters, so this doesn’t directly impact them.

However, it does cause other species to migrate. Large migrations can alter the ecosystems where spearfish live. Mass migrations cause various species to move specifically to the Pacific Island regions.

Climate change can also affect the development and growth of fish in general. It can affect spearfish along with the species that it depends on for food.


A spearfish’s main predator is humans, but other larger fish may also feed on spearfish. Specifically, large tuna are known to make spearfish a part of their regular diet.

Spearfish are not school fish and tend to live solitary lives. Therefore, any larger fish that comes by may make a meal out of them, taking advantage of their vulnerable position.

Other Threats

In addition to humans, climate change, and predators, the spearfish’s biggest threat is ocean pollution – particularly in the oceans surrounding Hawaii.

Although Hawaii is a beautiful island, it has a booming tourism industry. Because of the constant tourism, there is a lot of trash and pollution that occurs, including plastic waste along the ocean. 

Due to the Hawaii military base, there have also been several areas impacted by contaminated water.

As a result of this pollution combined with rising water temperatures, many of the reefs and ecosystems have been disrupted and destroyed, hurting several fish species.

Conservation Status

The spearfish is not currently listed on the World WildLife Organization’s endangered, vulnerable, and threatened animals list.

These fish are mainly sought after in Hawaii. Elsewhere, most are caught by anglers by accident.

The species’ official conservation status is Least Concern, meaning they are in no danger of being eradicated.

However, the STECF recommends monitoring the spearfish species as a whole and encourages catch and release sport fishing to preserve its population.

Fun Facts About Spearfish

  • Most spearfish weigh between 20 and 40 pounds.
  • Peak fishing seasons for spearfish in Hawaii are June through October.
  • T spearfish has a soft texture and mild flavor and can be grilled, sauteed, broiled, or even eaten raw.
  • Short bill spearfish live in the Pacific, while long bill spearfish live in deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Spearfish do not guard their eggs, and very few females will spawn more than twice in a lifetime.

Add comment